It is likely that more has been written about love and marriage than almost any other subject. Yet it is also true that there is much misunderstanding about it. Following are eight "myths" or false ideas about love and marriage:
1. Love is quick and easy. Some years ago, I was walking down the street in Winnipeg when I passed a neighbour shovelling a light layer of new snow. We talked briefly of the weather, and she noted that there had been only one bad snowfall the previous winter. The reason she knew this is that she had been visiting her husband in the hospital every day for a couple of years, and there had been only one day on which she could not go.
It struck me that we would all like to be loved with that same kind of devotion and faithfulness, but I wonder how many of us would be willing to give such love and devotion. I am afraid that for too many people, their attitude is summed up in the bumper sticker slogan: "Wanted: A meaningful overnight relationship". There is no such thing.
2. Love is an emotion. In a recent episode of the TV show ER, one of the characters asked, "I can't stop thinking about my girlfriend. That's love, isn't it?" His friend agreed that it was.
That is not love, but only an emotion, an infatuation. It is pleasurable, but a poor basis on which to build a long-term relationship--because when the emotion changes, so will the relationship. The first character had already seriously betrayed his girlfriend once before.
Love is not an emotion. It is a decision, a choice, a commitment, even an action. A good definition of love is found on the back cover of this magazine.
3. Everyone knows what love is. People give many different meanings to the word "love", including sexual desire or the desire to own and control another person. O.J. Simpson said in an interview that if he killed his wife Nicole, it was because he loved her. The kind of love that the Bible talks of is the kind of love that Jesus had: He sought the very best for those He loved, and He sacrificed His life to bring it to them, even when it was the people He loved who killed Him.
4. Loving one's spouse should take priority over everything else. Popular music repeats this idea over and over: "You are my reason for living", "You are all I need", "I don't care who you are or what you've done, as long as you love me."
This sounds like great love, but it is really worship. It makes the spouse one's god. What is wrong with that? Simply this: No human being can live up to that role. No human being can supply all of our needs. When we rely on someone else to be everything for us, they will inevitably fail us at some point and then we will be disillusioned. The Bible calls us to love God first, and then use the love He gives us to love others, including our spouse. Putting our spouse second to God is the most loving thing we can do.
Included in putting God first is accepting and practising His values: love, faithfulness, truth, kindness, honesty, justice, patience. Many criminals and tyrants have had spouses who have justified their behaviour by saying, "He was good to me." That is closer to selfishness than to the kind of universal love that the true God offers.
5. True love is possible only in marriage or in a sexual relationship. When God in the Bible said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:1 and created a woman to be a companion for the first man, He created the possibility not only for marriage but also for parent-child relationships and all other human relationships. The kind of love described on the back cover of this magazine is not limited to people in a sexual relationship.
6. There is no point in staying in a loveless marriage. This is the folly of living at the whim of emotions and letting feelings make decisions. It is also selfishness, focussing on whether I get a warm feeling I call "love" out of the relationship instead of on whether I am loving my spouse. Love is never selfish. If my marriage is loveless, then I should ask why I am not bringing love into it. Keeping a promise to remain with, support and meet the needs of my spouse is love. The people you will read about in these pages did not find misery in remaining in a marriage. They found joy and fulfillment. If we dedicate ourselves to caring for our spouse, our feelings will follow--and so will God's blessing.
7. Arguing for staying married is just an excuse for abusive husbands. No. Spousal abuse is condemned in the Bible, just as divorce is. The Bible does not defend abusive marriages. It calls us to marriages that are both faithful and loving.
8. True love is an illusion, only true in fairy tales. It is true that we live in a world where spousal abuse, divorce, unfaithfulness and cruelty abound. Yet there are millions of people who have found joy and fulfilment in marriage and other human relationships. The people you will meet in the following pages are real people, their stories are real, and they have found real love.